Spearfishing Madagascar by Jason Smith

The Yacht

Jason Smith with fish off madigascarThe name of the yacht was Bounder, skippered by Bert Spalding (and crew). Rates are all inclusive of food (excellent three courses, three meals a day), staff (three dedicated deck hands so you don’t lift a finger), diesel and boat. Booze was extra but very reasonable (stay away from the local rum though)!! We paid Euro 280/day (for whole boat) but this was a special rate because we booked for 10 days (I am sure you can negotiate close to this depending on length of trip).

Yacht is 45 ft and has three rooms so although we were four people you could quite comfortably manage with 5 or 6 if you don’t mind shifting up (crew sleep up on deck anyway). The one down side was the ‘Bakkie’ boat was not great (very old duck with small motor) and as the yacht is slow (typically only 8km/hr) for the first week we weren’t always where we wanted to be first thing in the morning. You tend to moor inshore on the Islands at night and many of the drop offs are as much as 30kms out so you only get there mid morning.

Tender

As I have a mate who runs a resort not far from there we were able to borrow a 9m longboat (with 55 hp Enduro) for the second week which worked great. Typically we would leave the yacht early morning and agree coordinates to meet up later and zoot ahead on the long boat with the yacht eventually catching us up for lunch and to offload catch. Same again in the afternoon meeting up for cold beers later. Overall we explored about 300 kms of Islands. Bert had plans to upgrade his ‘bakkie’ boat but you would have to check with him before you go that he has done so - you need to be a bit independent of the yachts progress (or try to arrange with him to source one from a contact but I wouldn’t know price).

We went November and the weather was excellent. Typically no wind in the morning and a 10 knot onshore in the afternoons (almost no rain). As for the best time of year I would guess that is it but would have to check with my mate in Madagascar if you wanted to do a radically different time (I know winter the trade winds blow and February is cyclone season). I’m going again this year in September so can let you know.

Amazing Diving

Diving was two distinct types. In-shore around the Islands the water is slightly murky (depending on tides but a terrible 60ft!!). Fish are plentiful but boring (as much Couta, Kingfish, Kaakap as you want). I know from my mates experience it can be wild with the bigger fish but we didn’t hit it. There was one spot we found where a massive bay (30kms across) empties out over a couple of pinnacles (up to surface) in 60ft of water. Viz was only 3-6m and has to be dived at neap tide because of current but fish was unbelievable (saw Kingfish, Couta, Tunny all in one down & the Prodigals follow you around the whole dive). I’m told it’s always like this.

Further out (20-30 kms) the coral atolls fall away from 10-15m to 600m in vertical walls (runs almost the entire length of the coast for 200km). I have never seen anything like it and viz typically was 50m +.  Here is where I say we should have worked fewer spots more (we just didn’t realize it would continue and always wanted to see what was a couple of kms further on). We now know the few key spots which have the most potential and where we would work again (they are full with normal fish and where we started to see the big Doggies/ Yellowfin etc cruising below). This area is largely untouched and undived – good fun and you get a chance to see all manner of other sea life.

Google Earth

Coordinates are on my handheld GPS so I would have to find but best area is roughly from 13 57 22.04S 47 46 29.29E to 14 21 29.15S 47 39 01.73S (Nose Korokojolo to Nose Saba) – you can check it out on Google Earth.

Hope that helps – if you need I can send you Bert`s mail address and contact number (when within range). Cheers

PS Flight are expensive, about R4000 pp return to Antananarivo and another R2000 pp to Nose Be.

PPS Bert took a real interest in what we were doing and also marked many of the spots we found – I think he would be delighted to have Spearos on board again (not to mention his staff who say they have never seen so much fish).